Rapaport To Support Digger Cooperatives in Sierra Leone

November 22, 2004

Rapaport To Support Digger Cooperatives in Sierra Leone

The Rapaport Group announced an agreement in principle with the United States government Agency for International Development and the human rights organization Global Witness to support a pilot program for development in Sierra Leone's diamond sector.

Rapaport will provide seed capital for the establishment of diggers' cooperatives and purchase the diamonds produced by the cooperatives based on prices set by Sierra Leonean government valuators. The diamonds will be sold in transparent open market tenders with Rapaport profits to be limited to a fixed commission. Tender sales results will be reported back to the diggers and excess profits will be repatriated to the cooperatives.

U.S. AID and the Kono Diamond Peace Alliance will select, support, monitor and coordinate the diggers cooperatives. Global Witness will fully monitor all aspects of the venture, from mining to marketing, to assure that they are being accomplished in a fair and honest manner.

"The time has come, here and now, for all of us to work together and share the diamond dream with its source, the people of Africa," said a statement released by the Rapaport Group. "The Rapaport Group firmly supports all efforts to create legitimate diamond markets in Sierra Leone and other West African countries. Such legitimate markets must be based on the principle of honest, transparent and fair trade whereby the local indigenous population receives tangible benefit from their country's diamond resources. Such markets must be open, fair and competitive whereby all honest stakeholders in the diamond industry have equal opportunity to participate in the region's diamond development."

The statement continues: "Diamond digging be accomplished in a morally responsible, socially accountable and economically beneficial manner with respect for the human rights of diggers and their communities. We hereby reaffirm that the Rapaport Group will not be party to any diamond purchasing scheme that exploits the local population and/or is not supported by legitimate NGOs [non-governmental organizations]."

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